Parliament praises ‘student-driven initiatives’ like Feet4Fees walkers

Parliament’s portfolio committee on higher education and training on Tuesday praised student-driven initiatives like the Feet4Fees campaign.

That campaign saw 15 students from the University of the Witwatersrand leave Johannesburg on foot on December 1‚ with the intention of reaching their destination‚ Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University in Port Elizabeth‚ on December 20.

“They’ve done it!” a post on www.feet4fees.co.za trumpeted as the walkers arrived in PE on Monday‚ a day ahead of schedule.

On 19 December Reuben Oosthuizen led the Feet4Fees walkers into Nelson Mandela University.  Image by: Supplied
Reuben Oosthuizen led the Feet4Fees walkers into Nelson Mandela University on December 19. Picture: SUPPLIED

“One after the other they shared their experiences and what they learnt from the adventure. The most common conviction that was distilled through 19 days of walking in the scorching sun‚ over hills and through valleys‚ was: ‘Together we can do it!’ ”

This earned the praise of committee chairperson Connie September‚ who said: “This is testament that students are seeing government’s attempts to make education as affordable as possible and that they want to contribute as well.

“Parliament acknowledges all these efforts including the ones that many student representative councils will engage on when universities reopen.”

September added: “We support the students and we are behind their initiatives of constructively contributing to the sector.”

Last week‚ Tiso Black Star Group Digital reported that the group’s leader‚ Reuben Oosthysen‚ said the idea of walking was inspired by the late former statesman Nelson Mandela’s “long walk to freedom”.

“The aim is to raise awareness on the state of our education system and how we can address the problems that we face. It is also to raise funds‚” Oosthysen said‚ adding that they had‚ at the time‚ raised R7-million.

September also said on Tuesday that the deadline extension for funding applications from the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) “will go a long way to benefit even a wider range of students who might have missed out”.

She said “this noble gesture speaks to government’s commitment to expand access to higher education” and urged those who have not applied to take note of the new submissions deadline.

Last Thursday‚ NSFAS CEO Msulwa Daca said it been so inundated with requests that it has extended the period for applications.

The original application process opened on August 1 and closed on November 30‚ but NSFAS executive management decided to open a second and last application window for financial aid.

Applications for students who wish to study at technical and vocational education and trainingcolleges will open from January 9‚ 2017 and close on February 14‚ 2017; and applications for students who wish to study at universities will open from January 9‚ 2017 and close on January 20‚ 2017.

September said: “The committee welcomes this move and thinks that it will go a long way to benefit even a wider range of students who might have missed out on the initial deadline for applications.

“Parliament is excited as this means a wider group will now be considered for government assistance.”

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